Tokyo-based nonprofit organizations are calling for the administration of new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to act swiftly to provide special benefits to impoverished households with children and increase child care allowances amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
An increasing number of child-rearing families in Japan have trouble paying for even their daily meals, as the virus crisis has led to declines in their incomes and savings.
While Kishida is planning to accelerate efforts to strengthen support to such households, it is uncertain when related measures will be implemented ahead of the Oct. 31 election for the House of Representatives.
Kidsdoor, an NPO tackling the poverty issues of households with children, is busy with hearing complaints from such families.
"We don't have food, sanitary items, transportation fees or a private car," said one person who asked for advice and help from the organization. "We can't take our temperatures since our thermometer has broken. It hurts to live."
A survey by Kidsdoor, based in Tokyo's Chuo Ward, showed that over 60% of households that received food aid from the NPO earn less than ¥2 million annually.
It also found that half of the households it supported had savings of less than ¥100,000.
"I've been engaged in poverty reduction support for over 10 years, but I've never experienced a terrible situation like this," said Kidsdoor Board Chair Yumiko Watanabe.
She also said, "We want the new administration to distribute cash to child-rearing families swiftly and create a framework that brings people in need into the middle class such as through career support with benefits."
The number of requests for food aid from Littleones, an NPO supporting households led by single parents, has jumped threefold from the level before the COVID-19 outbreak.
"Single mothers are increasingly losing their jobs," Kunihisa Koyama, chief representative of the NPO, based in Suginami Ward, said.
"We want the new administration to resolve problems of the (existing) system by coordinating with the private sector and hammer out policies with speed and effectiveness," he added.
Single Mothers Forum, a Chiyoda Ward-based NPO, received consultations from people who said they have lost their jobs or cannot receive public support due to credit card debts.
Especially, unmarried mothers and "de facto single parents," whose divorce has yet to be finalized, tend to suffer poverty as they cannot receive child support or child care allowances, according to the NPO.
"Many households use one-off benefits just to pay back debts," Masako Komori of the NPO's secretariat said. "We want (the new administration) to enhance allowances that are available continuously, even only during the coronavirus crisis."
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